Inverness hammer thrower Rachel MacLennan goes in search of her first Scottish title when she competes in this weekend’s 4J Studios national under-20 age group championships at Aberdeen Sports Village.
And a gold medal would cap what has been a stellar season for the 19-year-old Robert Gordon University law student.
After being unable to compete at all in 2020, MacLennan has grasped every opportunity to make her mark this summer.
The 19-year-old former Culloden Academy pupil has improved her personal best by an impressive five metres – from 46.26m to 51.26m – and has broken the Inverness Harriers under-20 and senior records on six occasions.
She is now the 10th best Scottish hammer thrower of all-time at under-20 level and 15th best in the senior rankings.
Earlier in the month, she finished second in the Scottish senior championship and a few days later earned her first international call-up, representing her country in the Manchester under-20 team competition, where she finished third.
MacLennan said: “I honestly didn’t think the season would go as well as it has done. In mid-July, I was worried that things weren’t going so well, but it has all come together at the right time, which is great.”
Securing a personal best throw to strike silver at the Scottish senior championships was a major achievement, but that was arguably topped by her trip to Manchester.
MacLennan added: “I competed for the Scottish schools team in 2018, but getting my first Scotland vest at Manchester was the biggest shock ever. I really didn’t expect it.
“I’m also so happy that I performed well on the day. That’s all you really want to do.”
She has been coached by Duncan Flockhart since she was a youngster and he was proud to be on hand to watch her international debut as he was part of the Scotland management team for the match.
This weekend’s under-20 championships in Aberdeen will be MacLennan’s final competitive outing of the season, and she hopes to finish off with another big result.
She said: “I’ve never won a national title at any age group level, so it would be nice to get one now.
“I certainly feel I can still throw further than I’ve done this season. There’s lots of little things we’ve been working on in training and if they all come together, I’d hope to do well. But we’ll just have to wait and see.
“After the championships, I’ll be looking forward to a short break before starting preparations for 2022.”
MacLennan’s younger brother Craig is also an accomplished thrower. He picked up silver in the hammer at the recent Scottish under-17 championships.
His best at the start of the season was 29.16m, but has improved to 41.12m.
Metro Aberdeen’s Ward looks to hold on to Run Banchory crown
Ben Ward is to defend his title in Sunday’s Run Banchory 10k, which has attracted an entry of just under 300 runners.
The Metro Aberdeen man won the inaugural event in 2019 when completing the undulating course in 36min 37secs to finish 21secs ahead of his clubmate Paul Knight.
Knight is also in the starting line-up, but an equally significant threat to Ward’s chances is expected to come from another Metro runner, Scotland hill running international Hamish Battle.
Metro teenager Jordan Cruickshank is another athlete expected to feature near the front, while Stuart Pringle and Jamie Ross will lead the challenge from Deeside Runners.
Banchory-based Nicola MacDonald (Metro Aberdeen) is favourite to win the women’s race in the absence of her clubmate and title-holder Ginie Barrand.
MacDonald, who is preparing for October’s Loch Ness marathon, recently won the Dundee half marathon.
That was only her third race over the past 22 months – and she has won them all.
She took top spot in the Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon in February 2020 and in the Speyside Way ultra trail run nine months later.
MacDonald looks more than capable of testing Barrand’s course record of 41:21.
Banchory’s Emma Roberts and Metro’s Rebecca Watt, second and third respectively in 2019, will also compete.
Others expected to feature include veteran Carolyn Milne (Ambleside AC), Sara Henry (Deeside Runners) and Emma Sutherland (JS Kintore).
There’s also primary schools 1.5k and secondary schools races.
Meanwhile, entries are now being taken for the Tom’s Cairn 10k on Saturday September 11. Full details at www.tomscairntrailrace.com
Organiser Greig gives to picks for Speyside Way ultra races
International ultra-distance runner Kyle Greig switches roles from race competitor to race organiser tomorrow.
The Alford-based athlete was one of three Metro Aberdeen runners who dominated the podium positions when representing Scotland in last weekend’s Anglo Celtic Plate 100k race in Ireland.
Debut men Chris Richardson and Jason Kelly finished first and second respectively, while Greig completed the whitewash by taking third position.
Tomorrow, however, he is event director for the Speyside Way 100k and 57k races, which have attracted a healthy number of competitors.
The top name on the entry list for the 57k between Cragganmore and Buckie is 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon representative Ross Houston.
The Central AC member is the Scottish 50k road running record holder and was British 100k champion in 2015, the same year in which he set a course record for the Dee 33 mile race.
Greig said: “It’s interesting to see that Ross is competing. He will certainly be favourite if he’s in good shape.
“Grant Jeans, who won in 2019, is also coming despite dropping out of the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k last weekend. He set off at far too fast a pace in Ireland and I just felt there’s no way he could sustain it.
“Aberdeen’s Sarah Simpson looks to be among the top contenders in the women’s field.”
Greig picked out Jamie Pallister as the man to watch in the 100k, which starts in Aviemore.
The Ellon athlete showed his pedigree earlier in the year when winning the inaugural Moray Coastal Trail 50 mile race.
Greig said: “Jamie should do well, although you never quite know what can happen in an ultra.”